County conservationists say the Licking River is far cleaner following the annual Licking River Round Up Sept. 7, but there's still much work to be done.
"It's going to take us a number of years, at least three, until we don't have to leave stuff behind," said Denise Natoli Brooks, an environmental education specialist for the Licking County Soil and Water Conservation District.
More than 175 Licking County citizens and staff from community organizations cleaned up trash along Licking County streams and rivers Sept. 7. The cleanup sites were in the communities of Buckeye Lake, Granville, Hebron, Newark and St. Louisville.
More than 270 tires were collected and about 10 cubic yards of trash were hauled out from the water and riverbanks.
"We definitely pulled out tires. Some still had the rims on them," Natoli Brooks said.
She said volunteers with canoes, who were unloading trash from their canoes as they traveled down the river, still couldn't manage to pull all the tires and other debris from the water.
She said volunteers also found a shopping cart, a radio from the 1950s, an underground fuel storage tank from a 1920s or 1930s service station, two mattresses, a refrigerator and even a guardrail.
"I have no idea why they were in the river," Natoli Brooks said. "We couldn't keep our canoes afloat with more stuff."
New for 2013 was a major effort to recycle as much trash as possible. The result was 8 cubic yards of material that will be kept out of the landfill.
Licking County Recycling received a grant through the Ohio EPA, which helped fund the effort.
Pat Deering, the conservation district's farmland preservation coordinator and information officer, said district officials appreciate the community's enthusiasm and willingness to spend a weekend day collecting trash.
"One-hundred seventy-five volunteers is great; it's just awesome," she said.
Last year, more than 300 tires and 22 cubic yards of trash were pulled from area rivers.
Deering said this is the third year for the event since it experienced a hiatus beginning 2003.
The River Round Up began as a Newark litter initiative in 1990, and brought out hundreds of volunteers who pulled tires, shopping carts and mountains of trash from an 18-mile stretch of the river.
Through their efforts, the river, which had all but been abandoned, has seen a rebirth of aquatic and bird life, Deering said.
But, she agreed with Natoli Brooks that much more work needs to be done.
"There are still many more tires in there," Deering said.